Hopefully from the first installments in this series you’ve gained some understanding of HTML – at least the Metadata in the ‘Head’ tag if nothing else. But how do you optimize HTML to get your web site moving further up search results?
Well, you’ll need a strategy and a way to edit your HTML. Your CMS will allow you to edit HTML if you have one (that’s a Content-Management System for those who don’t) otherwise you will have to use a HTML editor.
For those of you who don’t have a CMS, we’d recommend NotePad++. Call us or ask anyone in the know to set you up with it. It’s very easy to set up and even easier to use; but this tutorial isn’t about installing NotePad++ so we’ll leave that conversation there for now.
Once you are in a position to edit your HTML, here’s how to tailor and structure your strategy for the best results.
First of all, you need to decide which phrases you would like to be found for. If you visit https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool you’ll be able to enter lists of different search terms for analysis. You’ll see how often they are searched in the UK and globally and therefore how competitive they will be to optimize for. From this, you can deduce how much incremental traffic may be realistically attainable. After all, more popular terms among searchers will also be more popular among your competitors. Of course there’s more traffic to share though, so therein lies the balance which must be found.
Using keyword ‘qualifiers’ can be a great way of targeting your efforts strategically for maximum impact. For example, we want to be found for ‘Web Design’ in Google. However that’s a pretty competitive search term, so at first we focused on ‘Web Design Staffordshire’ as it was less competitive but arguably more relevant to us. We’ve hit the number one slot for that and held it for some time now. So, more recently, we’ve refocused to ‘Web Design Company’ which is a much broader and therefore competitive phrase, but builds on our previous success.
Google’s Keyword Tool will give you suggestions based on your chosen phrases so you’ll find that developing a ‘keyword strategy’ is surprisingly easy. We would suggest picking a few but not too many to move forward with; maybe 5 or 6 search terms to begin with. To hark back to part 1 of this series – don’t fall into the trap of chasing high search volumes if the phrase in question isn’t absolutely relevant. The search engines want to offer value, so be honest about what your web site offers people. Don’t optimize for the competitions’ products to try and be clever – if you don’t sell them or talk about them on your web site, you’ll be making yourself a liar and Google will act accordingly by throwing you off the results all together!
Time to Get Your Hands Dirty!
Once you have decided on a keyword strategy, it’s time to tweak the code. First things first, you need to make sure that all of your chosen phrases appear within the actual content of the page. After all, if you want Google to bring you up in search results for a given term, it stands to reason that they would want to see it appear in your body text (or preferably even headings, as we will discuss).
For beginners without a CMS, it’s usually easiest to find the text on your web site that needs editing, highlight a unique part of it, then copy and paste it into the ‘ctrl+F’ find function we’ve discussed before. The relevant code will be found and it can then be edited as normal (just be careful not to delete any opening or closing tags around the content!).
However, it’s worth remembering that there will be lots of words on your site. So how does Google know which ones are most important? Well, the content in headings is certainly seen as more important, so tweaking what are called ‘H-Tags’ is a good place to start. You find these by searching for the opener or closer, which are simply named ‘h’ followed by a number between 1 and 6 to denote it’s importance. The result is a cascade going from h1 (most important) to h6 (least important). These appear as follows:
<h1>This is the Main Heading</h1> ,
<h2>These are the First Group of Sub-Headings</h2> ,
all the way through to
<h6>These are the Least Important Sub-Headings</h6>
Some best practice for ‘H-Tags’ now: Only ever use one H1 tag per page, never skip a number out in the cascade, and try to make it so that the numbers cascade logically according to the actual content but also according to the page structure (H1 at the top, H2-H5 below that, H6 nearest the bottom). You don’t have to use all 6 though; just as many as you need. Again, the best bet is to be honest and logical in your approach.
For the record, you’ll probably find that other copy is found in ‘P-Tags’ – or Paragraph tags i.e. <p>…</p>. This copy is seen as less important than your H-Tags, but the copy should be relevant to your H-Tags by including the same search terms or related terms.
Image Alt Tags & Anchor Text
The names given to media files on your web site are seen by Google as very important. Pictures, video, audio… these can all be given ‘hidden’ file names in the code. For the purpose of this beginners’ guide, I’m going to focus on images only. The hidden names for images are often called ‘Image Alt Tags’ because of the way they appear in the code. There are also ‘Image Titles’ which appear when a user hovers the mouse over the image:
<img src=”Location of File” alt=”Alternative Name for the Image” title=”The optional title that appears if you hover the mouse over the image”>
Once you change the Alt and Title Tags, Google will cache that name and use it to match your content to search terms. It will also help the images to be found in Google Image searches.
Then there’s anchor text – any text that appears as a link within your site. Anchor text is used (to differing extents) to help classify the page it is on as well as the page it links to. If that page happens to be within the same site, that is taken into account too. It’s pretty complex when you get into the algorithm, but as long as you only link when it is relevant and your anchor text is a genuine description, you’ll be in good shape. This is what anchor text looks like:
<a href=”This is the trailing URL for the link” title=”This is the Anchor Text” ></a>
Now, for the adventurous souls… If you want to make your logo in the header page as a site-wide link back to the home page while using the image itself to SEO too, you can do it like this:
<a href=”/” title=”Anchor Text Goes Here”><img src=”Location of Image” alt=”Image Alt Tag” title=”Image Title”</a>
That’s the most complicated thing I’ll show you; and hopefully it should make sense to you after reading this series! It just demonstrates how logical HTML can be and how creative you can get with SEO solutions.
Now you can change your H-Tags, Image Alt Tags, anchor text and Metadata, you’re well on your way to having a competitively optimized web site. In our final installment, we’ll look at how often is too often when repeating search phrases through you content, how Google looks at semantic links between words and how to make the best use of your site structure for SEO.
Watch out for it later this week or alternatively join our mailing list to follow this series, stay current with our other blogs and receive special tailored promotions too! Furthermore, if you want to discuss any of the concepts presented here, feel free to pick up the phone or fire us an email. We’d be happy to talk it through.